Young Up-and-Coming EPL Footballers Who Will Play Bigger Roles in 2013
The Premier League has got to its best and most exciting start of all time. Only one point separates the top three teams, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, while Tottenham Hotspur sits just four points behind.
The main reason for the Blues' rise to the top after finishing sixth last term is the young players Roberto Di Matteo brought in during the summer.
Young up-and-coming stars Eden Hazard and Oscar have been nothing less than sensational as the ironically nicknamed Pensioners steamrolled everything before them before their controversial defeat to Manchester United.
The one constant in football is its reliance on youth.
Football clubs are built upon the evolution and development of talented kids who go on to become integral parts of the team. In some rare cases these kids can even go on to become important players in terms of the club's history—and can even change the game as a whole.
Think of the young players who fans have seen break through.
Who would have thought that Paul Scholes would go on to play over 700 games for Manchester United after he made his debut in 1994?
Who would have predicted that Gareth Bale, who made his debut as a 16-year-old in April 2006 for Southampton, would go on to be the hottest prospect in world football?
Here we look at 20 young up-and-coming Premier League players who are destined to play a bigger part for their teams in 2013—and maybe even beyond.
Leave your comments, suggestions and thoughts in the section below.
Arsenal: Jack Wilshere (20)
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We all know that Wilshere, as a player, has huge potential. But in terms of development he is still but a babe.
As a professional he has only made 52 Premier League appearances across his loan spell with Bolton and his one true season, before injury struck, with Arsenal.
Wilshere, a great passer and midfield general of old, will play a bit part for Arsene Wenger toward the end of 2012.
Once fitness returns he will become a far more important member of the team—and that will be in 2013.
Aston Villa: Christian Benteke (21)
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Make no mistake about it: Paul Lambert signed an absolute gem when he captured Christian Benteke for just £6 million.
The Belgian international has the potential to have a huge future in the game, and the manner of his early performances for Aston Villa suggest the Villains may not have him for long.
He has shone in a struggling side, scoring two goals in six games, and plays with great maturity for one so young.
Chelsea: Lucas Piazon (18)
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Oscar and Eden Hazard are the obvious choices for young, up-and-coming star players at Chelsea.
However, the first team with an average age of 27.1 is destined to be shaken up over the next year and the one reserve team player who looks set for promotion is Lucas Piazon.
Piazon, usually compared with Kaka, is highly versatile and comfortable in any position in the final third of a conventional 4-2-3-1 formation. Currently this is the formation of choice for Roberto Di Matteo.
He is strong enough to hold the ball up as the centre-forward, quick enough to play in the wide positions, and clever and creative enough to play in his preferred position behind the striker.
He is already in Chelsea's Champions League squad and as 2013 beckons, so does further involvement in the Blues' team.
Everton: Aspostolos Vellios (20)
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Aspostolos Vellios is a key member and goal-scoring regular of Everton's reserve setup.
The Greek U-21 international, snapped up for just £250,000 in January 2011, is big, powerful and direct and is currently the reserves' Player of the Year.
This term, the Greek youngster has seen his chances lessened by new tactics, the signing of Kevin Mirallas and the evolution of Marouane Fellaini.
However, as the season progresses he is sure to play a bigger part in Moyes' thoughts and plans.
Fulham: Pajtim Kasami (20)
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It says much about Fulham under Martin Jol that Pajtim Kasami, at 20, is by far the youngest player in the oldest squad in the Premier League.
The Swiss U-21 international signed for the Cottagers in 2011 and really does have limitless potential.
The left-footed attacking midfielder is an imposing figure, standing at 6'2", and has played nine games across all competitions for Fulham this season (EPL U-21, Europa League, Premier League).
He is a good passer of the ball and is highly creative, and if he can combine his creativity and physicality, Martin Jol will have a potent weapon at his disposal.
However, Kasami is a notoriously hard player to train and his current stint with Fulham is the longest he has had since 2006-2009 when he played for Grasshopper Zurich.
Liverpool: Raheem Sterling (17)
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Raheem Sterling is one of the hottest prospects in the Premier League at the moment.
The highly raw and talented winger has pace to burn and the skill to match and has easily been the one bright spot in Liverpool's stuttering season.
The right-footed winger is usually deployed on the left side of Brendan Rodgers' 4-3-3, but is equally adept on the right.
His greatest strength is his direct style of play, and as the season progresses so too will his positional sense and technical ability.
In Rodgers' short time at Anfield, Sterling has already become an important part of the setup.
As the horrendous run of fixtures the Reds have in 2012 come to an end and move toward an easier run in 2013, we will see the influence of Sterling rise.
That's a truly frightening thought for most of the Premier League's full-backs.
Manchester City: John Giudetti (20)
John Giudetti is almost the forgotten man of Manchester City.
The Swedish 20-year-old is one of the best prospects at the Etihad and enjoyed a highly successful season on loan with Feyenoord last term.
In 23 games, for De club aan de Maas, Giudetti scored a highly impressive 20 goals.
However, it was his all-action, no-nonsense and mature style of play that won the hearts of Dutch fans rather than his goals.
Unfortunately, Giudetti then contracted a virus that kept him out of Feyenoord's league run-in but they still managed to qualify for the Champions League.
He has yet to make his mark for City this season as he is still recovering. However, that did not put City off and they gave him a new and improved contact until 2015.
If Giudetti can recover to his full capabilities, he could turn out to be the player who ousts Mario Balotelli from the City squad.
Manchester United: Nick Powell (18)
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Nick Powell is the second coming of Paul Scholes, or so Sir Alex Ferguson hopes.
Capped at every underage level for England, the 18-year-old Powell has already played 56 professional league games—more than Jack Wilshere.
Like Scholes when he was younger, Powell is a midfielder who does his best work coming onto the ball and he has also developed an incredible knack for being in the right place at the right time as far as goals are concerned.
This year will see Powell integrated into the atmosphere and accepted standards of being a Manchester United player. Sir Alex Ferguson will use him sparingly in cup games and as a substitute in games that are already won.
However, as the season and Powell progress, Ferguson will eventually thrust him into battle to test him and to see how he copes.
In the end, it would seem that Powell is destined to succeed just like the man he will succeed—Paul Scholes.
Newcastle United: Davide Santon (21)
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Capped at every level by Italy, Davide Santon has a very bright future in the game.
The left-back, in his short time at the club, has become a key player in the Newcastle first team under Alan Pardew.
At 21, Santon shows great maturity and for what he lacks in pace he makes up in his positional play that is typically Italian.
He is solid defensively, has good pace and always manages to find space to offer good options for his fellow defenders and goalkeeper in both defence and attack.
If Santon can keep up the high level of performances he has shown since signing for Newcastle in 2011, bigger clubs will most definitely come calling. 2013 looks to be a very important year for him.
Norwich City: Harry Kane (19)
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As it now stands, Norwich City are certain to be involved in this season's relegation battle.
For that very reason it is almost impossible for Chris Hughton to promote youth team players to the first team. They would lack the nous and battle-hardened mentality to contend with the pressure of such an enduring war.
However, Hughton has gone back to his old club, Tottenham Hotspur, and has snapped up one of their best prospects for this very reason.
Harry Kane is just 19 years old but the big striker has already built up some impressive experience in his young career.
The England U-19 international has already played on loan at London clubs Leyton Orient and Millwall and enjoyed successful stays there. Combined with his Europa League experience from last season, Kane becomes a very mature 19-year-old.
He has already made his début for the Canaries this season but has been ruled out until December with a metatarsal injury.
As 2013 approaches he will have a big part to play in Norwich's survival.
QPR: Junior Hoilett (22)
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It was surprising to many that Junior Hoilett chose Queens Park Rangers for the next step in his career. However, it is here that Hoilett will be shaped for years to come.
Hoilett is a highly talented support striker who is comfortable in any position across the final third of the field. So far this season Mark Hughes has used him on the wings and behind Bobby Zamora, the main striker.
Hughes, though, would be better suited if he moved toward using a 4-2-3-1 formation where Hoilett would become centre stage alongside the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips and possibly even Adel Taarabt.
If Hughes can use this formation to get the best out of Hoilett and his entire team, they will avoid relegation.
But, it all depends on whether he can get the best from Hoilett or not.
So in every which way, 2013 will be massive for manager, player and club alike.
Reading: Alex McCarthy (22)
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It speaks volumes about the Premier League and how goalkeepers mature far later than other players that Alex McCarthy is the only 'keeper on this list.
The 22-year-old has done nothing but impress since replacing Adam Federici after just two games.
He made his debut in the 3-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and has yet to finish on the winning side this season as Reading really look out of their depth.
Saying that, McCarthy, the English U-21 international has looked a Premier League player—even if some of his teammates do not.
2013 will be a huge year for Reading, as they strive to avoid relegation.
But, it will also be a huge one for McCarthy because if he continues to impress he will start to attract attention from clubs with youth policies—like Liverpool.
Southampton Town: Nathaniel Clyne (21)
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The 21-year-old Nathaniel Clyne will be ultraimportant for the Saints and Nigel Adkins as they try to avoid relegation this season.
The 5'9" full-back has already amassed almost 150 first-team appearances with, old club, Crystal Palace and Southampton—whom he joined in August.
Even though he is still maturing as a player, he is almost everything you would want in a right-back.
He is quick and powerful and is a defensively disciplined player who only commits himself to the attack when the opportunity arises.
As 2013 rolls around the Saints will be mired in the bottom five and involved in the relegation battle, Clyne will have to raise his game substantially if they are to avoid this fate.
He is capable, but whether his team will meet his high standards remains to be seen.
Stoke City: Steven N'Zonzi (23)
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Steven N'Zonzi is one of the most underrated players in the Premier League.
The French U-21 international only joined Stoke City this summer and is already a major part of Tony Pulis' team.
N'Zonzi is a huge, powerful man with a deceptively deft touch and patrols central midfield like a guard dog, ready to snap into any challenge that may present itself.
As the Potters' season progresses N'Zonzi is sure to cement a place and become a far more important player in the starting XI due to his athleticism and defensive attributes.
Sunderland: David Meyler (23)
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At 23, David Meyler is one of the oldest players on this list but in terms of development he is still in the rookie stage.
Despite being with Sunderland since 2008, the Cork-born Irish international has only played 31 times for the Black Cats. The lack of first-team action has been caused by successive serious injuries that have kept the energetic midfielder out for long periods.
Now back in full training and nearing full fitness, the Ireland star, who has been capped seven times, is chomping at the bit to show Martin O'Neill and the many Sunderland fans exactly what they have been missing these past few years.
As a player, Meyler is a box-to-box midfielder with huge amounts of energy and the ability to break down play as well as initiate the main attacks.
There is definitely a place in the Black Cats team for a player with these abilities. As the season moves forward and Meyler's fitness improves, he should be in a position to make a return to regular first-team action.
Swansea City: Ki Sung-Yueng (23)
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The 23-year-old creative midfielder is as honest as they come on the pitch and can play in any central midfield position from just in front of the back four to just behind the main striker.
He is technically superior to most Premier League midfielders and possesses great vision which, when, combined with his shooting ability makes him very dangerous from outside the box.
At Celtic he was worshipped because of the difficult acclimatisation from South Korean football to the rough and tumble of the Scottish Premier League, so the combative nature of the EPL is unlikely to phase him.
If he can continue to improve and show his worth, he is exactly the kind of player that Arsene Wenger loves to sign.
Tottenham Hotspur: Steven Caulker (20)
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As it stands, Tottenham Hotspur's Steven Caulker is just about the best defensive prospect in the Premier League today.
The 20-year-old was an integral part in Brendan Rodgers' Swansea team, impressing and surviving last season. He is also the main reason that Michael Dawson was put up for sale at the start of the season by Andre Villas-Boas.
The 6'3" 20-year-old has been capped at every level for England, bar senior—but that only seems a matter of time, as he has already played 112 games as a pro and is now a major part of Villas-Boas' team going forward.
He is highly mobile, strong in the tackle, reads the game very well and is very comfortable on the ball—as is evident by his play with Spurs this season and with Swansea last year.
2013 will be a massive year for the youth because he knows that the centre-half berth at Spurs is up for grabs and that if he can make that his own, the World Cup in 2014 will be just around the corner.
West Bromwich Albion: Romelu Lukaku (19)
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The second loan signing to make the list is none other than Romelu Lukaku.
The giant Chelsea striker is, surprisingly, on loan with the Baggies for the rest of the season. Given the Blues' lack of depth up front and Lukaku's early-season form, it would not be a huge surprise to see him back in blue come January.
Lukaku is a huge, hulking figure in the mould of Didier Drogba and like his Belgian teammate, Christian Benteke, he has a huge future ahead.
So far this year he has been used sparingly by Steve Clarke during West Brom's impressive climb to the upper half of the table, but he has managed to score three times in eight games—mainly as substitute.
He is perfect in a 4-2-3-1 formation but lacks speed over long distances that Shane Long easily exploits, so if Lukaku is to make the main striker role his own, he will have to learn how to read the game much better.
If that happens, West Brom or Chelsea will possibly have the most frightening striker in the league.
West Ham: Jordan Spence (22)
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A graduate of the famed West Ham academy, Jordan Spence could quite possibly be the next big thing to come out of the Boleyn Ground.
The 6'3" defender is primarily being used as a full-back by Sam Allardyce but as his game matures, he is sure to be moved inside to centre-half.
Allardyce has a track record at developing good central defenders. Think Gary Cahill at Bolton (now at Chelsea) or Phil Jones at Blackburn (now at Manchester United), and you see the influence the former centre-forward can have on his players.
Spence, like Caulker, has also been capped at every level by England, but unlike Caulker he is also used as a full-back because of his superior speed.
If Spence can continue to learn his trade at the current rate, he is sure to earn a place in the Hammers' team toward the season's end.
Wigan Athletic: James McCarthy (21)
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The best midfield prospect outside the traditional top five is Wigan's James McCarthy.
The 21-year-old Irish international, who was born in Scotland, is used to doing things the hard way in football.
By the time he joined the Latics in 2009, the youngster had already racked up an incredibly impressive 109 games for Hamilton Acedemicals in the SPL. So when Roberto Martinez signed the kid who had attracted attention from all over Europe, he pulled out something of a coup.
Now in his seventh season as a professional and his fourth with Wigan, McCarthy, who has been capped eight times, might just possibly be the most experienced 21-year-old footballer on the planet.
But in terms of making his stamp on the game, he is still an up-and-coming star.
McCarthy has a great engine, is a gifted passer and is on the verge of greatness.
2013 will be a huge season for him regarding club and country.
Because while he is trying to make the international starting berth his own, he is also the mainstay in his team, and avoiding relegation yet again hangs firmly on his young shoulders yet again.
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